Thursday, 14 September 2017

Ten years of Summorum Pontificum II

Read the first part here.

Today, we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum’s entry into force.

La misa
Salvador Tuset Tuset, s.f.
Colección privada

At the end of the first part, we said that “Filipino Catholics—priests, religious, and lay—dedicated to Tradition oftentimes willingly cross four civil jurisdictions and five ecclesiastical circumscriptions every Sunday to celebrate or attend Mass in the Old Rite.” If we let the thought settle, we might feel that warm sensation descending upon us when we realise that our adherence to the Extraordinary Form is in some way a heroic deed. Disappointments and discouragements bombard us from all sides. And yet, that “raw longing for that ‘encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist’, for that communion with the Lord in the Mass, according to the Old Rite” continues to sustain us.

If this dedication is so riven with strife, what makes us labour in this journey? What impels us to walk this pilgrimage? More prosaically, what motivates us Filipinos to attend the TLM? Somehow, this is a rather broad question, so let us split it into two. First: What motivates Filipinos to attend the TLM for the first time? Second: What motivates them to stay? Let us briefly answer the first half. Some attend their first TLM as children of parents who already attend the EF. Quinquagenarians and above attended their first TLM prior to the Council, so they are excused here. We direct our concern to those who attend for the first time out of their own volition, assisted or otherwise. Most of them attend for the first time out of pure curiosity. For the sake of discussion, let us sweepingly reduce this curiosity into three: academic (Why is it different?); aesthetic (Is it really beautiful?); and recreational (How should I spend my Sunday afternoon?).

The outcome of that first experience with the TLM usually motivates people to stay. Which answers the second question. Let us then agree to construe stay not in terms of the number of subsequent attendances in the EF, but in terms of the conviction to attend the EF under normal circumstances. This way, we can envision the mechanisms by which the decision works. Normal circumstances refer to a situation without any meteorological anomaly or intervening emergency or conflicting commitment. Now, let us imagine how our personalities would react. All three of them are most likely to find the Latin jarring, unless they have had prior encounter with the language. The inability to immediately recognise the cues when to stand, kneel, or sit might be somewhat confusing to them; and the expectation from the part of the congregants that they behave in a certain way might be mildly disconcerting to them.

The academically curious is usually the one to prepare himself prior to attending, reading informational materials online. If resourceful enough, he might be able to procure a hand missal for his own use. As the celebration unfolds, he would be checking each juncture against his expectations, and would then mentally assess the outcome. His practical or pragmatic perspective would acknowledge the consistency offered by the EF. He might then decide if this stability is something that he values. If that first attendance assists this plot, he would stay.

The aesthetically curious is usually bound emotionally to the endeavour. For him, the expectation functions as an objective as well. He expects that his attendance would allow him to encounter beauty and admire Beauty. The weight of this investment would sometimes push him to the brink of frustration about the current liturgical state of affairs in the country. The experience would rouse in his bowels a hankering for the excellence that he just witnessed. And if that first attendance obtains this positive outcome, he would stay.

The recreationally curious is usually indifferent, mentally and emotionally unpreoccupied, freeloading on an activity in which he thinks he can find temporary deliverance from monotony. Normally, someone already attending the TLM invited him, and he, finding no excuse to decline or seeing an opportunity to ingratiate himself, assented. At the end of the day, he would just find the experience either worthwhile or not. Whether he will stay or not depends on his forecasted recreational needs or his interior conversion.

Children born of EF-attending parents stay out of habit, so as long as their parents do not lose interest in the TLM, and the children do not rebel around the time they hit puberty, they will stay as adults. But this presents a flaw that worries the pessimist. What if the habit is only nourished by mere filial piety and not by true love for Tradition? If their parents abandon Tradition, will they abandon it too? Quinquagenarians and above, on the other hand, demonstrate the power of the EF. After a long hiatus, they actually returned.

If such a unifying desire as the aching for that “encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist”, why are there so many TLM communities? Even if majority of our number are extraterritorial congregants, our communities still follow perceptible, if not pronounced, civil boundaries. How do our groups form? Our attempt to answer this begins by positing our thesis that TLM communities form in general either by nucleation or by crystallisation. Allow us to explain these two technical terms. When communities form by nucleation, small pockets of people gather around a common person. For the TLM, this common person is usually the priest. On the other hand, if communities form by crystallisation, groups assemble around a common organisation. This organisation is the core group that liaises with the others in all matters TLM. Let us say that the FIUV represents one such organisation.

In the Philippines, our communities form by nucleation, usually centred around a priest who celebrates the EF. As such, many groups exist, and prospective TLM regulars are now afforded the freedom to evaluate their options. Several factors attend the formation of a community, but, ultimately, it is the attitude of each individual congregant that influences his choice of which TLM community to attend or frequent. Geography encourages the conclusion: The nearer, the better. Societal expectations favours the consideration: I know some people attending there. Belongingness supports the insight: I feel more at home with the people that attend here. Aesthetic preferences can lead to this decision: I want to hear propers sung from the Graduale Romanum rather than from the Chants Abrégés. Projected insecurities can erect firewalls: The people who own the building once made me feel worthless. Our different idiosyncrasies externalise in the variedness of our communities.

La primera comunión
Mariano Barbasán Lagueruela, 1900
Colección privada

That TLM communities in the Philippines appear disjoint is an opinion worth contemplating, as it has apparently steered us to face the observation, both by outsiders and insiders, that we are fissiparous. This we deal by asking ourselves if our manyness harms the integrity of the Faith and whittles down the treasury and patrimony of the Church so long enriched by Tradition. We are convinced that an in-depth analysis of the situation will lead to the conclusion that no harm is done and no whittling down happens. This, however, has not stopped many Traditionalists from accusing their own communities of being subservient to the personality of their priests. To them, this situation imposes a self-limiting boundary that hampers intercommunity cooperation. While we would submit that this is a plausible state of affairs, we would condemn what this so boldly speculates: that priests are the reason why communities rarely interact and expand. The intrinsic defect of this allegation is its impaired view of the dynamics within a TLM community. The relevant question is not: Does the priest tell his congregants to do this and not to do that? Rather, the relevant question is: Do the congregants allow themselves to be told what and what not to do?

As we have said in the first part, Filipino Catholics are naturally obsequious and obedient to their priests. We also mentioned that some Filipino bishops repay the activity of their priests, who choose to offer the Extraordinary Form, with interesting rewards. Filipino Traditionalists are generally not blind to this great personal risk and sacrifice undertaken by their priests, and so they judiciously heed their counsel and guidance in matters concerning the direction of the Traditional movement.

At the heart of this dissatisfaction lurks the perception that the Traditional movement in the Philippines is not gaining enough momentum. The problem is not about the enoughness. Rather, it is about what constitutes the momentum. For many, momentum is magnitude. One might have experienced the epiphany that, since the overall Traditional community in the Philippines remains small and fragmented, then there is a crisis. On our part, we look at momentum in terms of impact. We have lamented in the first part that mainstream Filipino Catholics condescend to tolerate us because we are not making any appreciable impact, or, if we are making any significant impact at all, it is weakened by its inconsistency and infrequency.

We need first to embrace our smallness and fragmentedness, in order for us to harness our ubiquity to plan meaningful activities for our communities. We have geographically-positioned communities spread not only across Metro Manila but across the archipelago. If we zoom out of the isolation, we will see multilocational units waiting to be networked. It is a logistical nightmare, but not impossible. One priest wisely highlighted the virtue of ubiquity: No entrepreneur opens a branch of the same store on the same street. Marciamo divisi per colpire uniti, beckoned Cordialiter to all bloggers. Let us noise this call abroad to all our fellow workers in the vineyard. It is upon our lot to ensure that, not just in the blessing of sacramentals and in the veneration of relics, we cultivate Tradition across all its breadth and disciplines. After all, as we said in the first part, Summorum Pontificum placed this onus on us.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

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